A state of denial on police brutality

2011-04-30 13:29

National police commissioner Bheki Cele believes that police brutality is not as rife as it is made out to be.

In his words, such reports are “isolated cases”.

We beg to differ. What is isolated is the number of cases that make it to the front pages of newspapers and the top stories of news broadcasts.

Even if it were statistically true, it is cold ­comfort to the family members of Jeanette Odendaal, the woman shot at a police station while there to report a case of disturbance of the peace, or to the family members of Andries ­Tatane, who was pummelled with batons by ­police, who later failed to protect him when he was mercilessly gunned down, allegedly by other members of the SAPS.

Each case of police ­brutality is one too many.

Cele’s words also smack of a state of denial.

The police have an institutional culture of ­resorting to the jackboot before they try other means.

It is part of the culture that has ­survived the fall of the apartheid state and its ­reliance on violence to affirm and validate itself.

Policing must join the rest of South Africa in being a constitutional rather than a police state.

For this to happen, there is a need for political leadership, starting from the highest office in the land to the Minister of Police and Cele himself, to say that policing is a service to citizens.

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